IOC VP: 2021 Tokyo Olympics ‘Will Be the Games That Conquered’ COVID-19

A symbol installed for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on a barge is moved away from its usual spot by tugboats off the Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. The five Olympic rings floating on a barge in Tokyo Bay were removed for what is being called “maintenance,” and officials says they will return to greet next year's Games. The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic and are to open on July 23, 2021. The Paralympics follow on Aug. 24. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)

Hiro Komae/Associated Press

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed until 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the vice president of the International Olympic Committee, John Coates, said Monday that the Tokyo Games will be the ones that “conquered” the coronavirus. 

“The Games were going to be their theme, the Reconstruction Games after the devastation of the tsunami,” Coates said, per the BBC, referencing 2011’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan that killed over 15,000 people. “Now very much these will be the Games that conquered COVID, the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The IOC has a year to prepare for the possibility of the coronavirus being a part of daily life without a readily available vaccine. Many other sporting leagues have resumed around the globe, from European soccer leagues, the NBA and NHL largely mitigating the spread of COVID-19 to MLB struggling to keep outbreaks at bay at points in its restarted season. 

With or without a vaccine, Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto said the Olympics would be going forward in July of next year. 

“If a vaccine is ready, that will be a benefit,” he said. “But we’re not saying we can’t hold the event without it—it’s not a precondition.”

There will be other questions to answer, however. Will there be fans in attendance, for one? Will Japan—which has mostly closed its borders to visitors from other countries to stem the spread of the coronavirus—welcome athletes from all qualifying countries? 

In July, Muto said the Games could be held with a “limited” audience and the event could “simplify” its opening and closing ceremonies, along with limiting staff members and representatives from every country. 

Without a vaccine, it’s possible that the 2021 Games could be a scaled-back event. With many leagues around the world hosting games either without fans or with limited spectators, sports enthusiasts will be accustomed to such circumstances by next summer.